California Test Scores Up After Bilingual Classes Are Dropped

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNS) - One year after the passage of Proposition 227, which dismantled bilingual education in California, early test scores of statewide exams in math, science, social studies and language arts are up - in some cases dramatically - among students who are not fluent in English.

"Although a final verdict on Prop. 227 will not be available until all remaining district scores are released later this week, these initial results are quite astonishing," said English for the Children Chairman Ron Unz, who spearheaded the Prop. 227 referendum.

With Proposition 227 being challenged in court, its implementation across the state has been sporadic. Many districts are fighting 227 by allowing parents to sign waivers keeping their children in bilingual programs. In the San Francisco Unified School District more than 20,000 students still are in bilingual classes - about the same number as before Prop. 227.

However, in the Southern California school district of Oceanside, which granted virtually no parental waivers and placed former bilingual students into English immersion programs, 98 percent of instruction is in English. Test scores have risen dramatically since last year and, according to figures released this month, math scores are up 120 percent and reading scores are up 180 percent.

Although opponents of Prop. 227 are hesitant to credit the improved test scores solely to the abandonment of bilingual classes, others, who supported the referendum to end bilingual education, say the results are obvious.

"These are positive results which prove that English immersion works," said Center for Equal Opportunity Education Director Jorge Amselle.

"Opponents of Prop. 227 should be completely ashamed of themselves for pushing bilingual education, but they're not," Amselle told CNSNews.com.

One of those opponents, David Ramirez, an education professor at California State University at Long Beach, simply denied the test results.

"A five point gain is statistically significant; a 100 percent gain is unheard of," Ramirez said in a recent article. "Such an astronomical change - it's impossible," he added.

A spokesman for U.S. English, an interest group lobbying for the establishment of English as the nation's official language, told CNSNews.com that the opponents of Prop 227 were wrong when they forecast that it would cause havoc with the educational system in California.

"It's done what we said," said Tim Schultz. "All the predictions of the failure of Prop. 227 have just not been borne out."

Amselle said that bilingual education activists will continue to oppose English immersion and will try to "obfuscate" the issue by claiming that other factors such as smaller classes and general improvements in academic standards are responsible for the higher test scores.

"They are not going to let the facts stand in their way," said Amselle.